Outside, someone bellows at the top of their lungs. I can’t make out what they are saying. Perhaps they are not voicing words at all. What is going on? It takes me a moment to process the reality as I emerge from my dreamless slumber: the yet unfamiliar sheets, walls, doors. I sit up in my bed. Right, I’m back at school, in Baltimore. The room looks bright, or I hope that it is bright enough for it to be morning. My hands reach out to my phone, and it disappoints me. It’s only 1:18 in the morning.
After being at home for almost a year, jetlag — which had been a natural part of me for the past seven years — feels foreign. I don’t want to be awake, but my body seems to think I am in massive danger; I don’t feel tired at all. Not just at 1:18 in the morning, but ever since I got off the plane on Sunday, two, no, three days ago. My body waits for something; it doesn’t let me fall into deep unconsciousness. What am I waiting for? The pillow I ordered from IKEA?
In Season Seven of Gilmore Girls, Rory is about to graduate from Yale. She is mailing (back in ancient 2007, that is) her resumes and waiting to hear back from the New York Times Reston Fellowship. Throughout the entire show, Rory has been perfect. She is the perfect child, student, valedictorian... how can things possibly go wrong? I mean, she is the heroine of the plot. Of course, she has her ups and downs, but Rory gets what she wants. Then, finally, the results roll in, and Rory opens the letter. I hold my breath. In those split seconds, I find myself wanting a certain result. And Rory doesn’t get the fellowship.
Yes, that’s what I wanted, I surprise myself.
I have been rooting for Rory, but I also wanted her to be imperfect. Last week I was notified that I didn’t make it to the second round of interviews for an internship I applied to. Sure, it wasn’t the internship of my dream, but a rejection hurts nonetheless. But even more than because of the recent rejection, I wanted Rory to be imperfect for once because our lives are.
I told an alum that I want to write a novel. I don’t expect it to be The Lords of the Rings, but I wanted it to be recognized. He said: “Hey, Lords of the Rings wasn’t Lords of the Rings as you are saying it. Tolkien was middle-aged when he wrote that book, already had a job as a university professor, and it sure as heck wasn't considered literature pretty much until after he died. We would be completely human for thinking that, say, North by Northwest was a giant success for Hitchcock because we now consider it a classic. It wasn't. It was a huge flop and the reason he next had to make Psycho so cheaply.”
He then added, “Don’t chase ghosts.” In the end, everything depends on how it is perceived by the viewer, not what is really there, as my Visual Pathway class taught me.
Don’t chase after what was never there.
In The Beast in the Jungle by Henry James, John Marcher waits for something. He confesses that he does not know what exactly that is. He just knows there is something waiting for him in his life — the “beast,” he calls it. Is he excited to find out? Perhaps in the beginning. But the longer he waits, the “beast” tires him out. He is so focused on waiting for the right thing, the thing he’s meant for, that he misses everything else life has to offer. At the end, all he has left is waiting.
The frustration I felt is indescribable. John Marcher, a foolish man! He even let the love of his life go without knowing she was the one. Then, I realized, who am I to criticize him? I, who think incessantly about whether the class I am taking is the “right” class? Whether my major is the “right” one? Whether I am at the “right” place? Constantly weighing options leaves one in the middle of nowhere except in one’s thoughts. Not living, but imagining life. Sometimes thinking should be turned off, and the gut should take lead.
But what happened to my gut? Are you there?
It may have been already engulfed by my thoughts.
No, don’t trust the gut. Trust yourself. Don’t think yourself into something because it is sensible nor make impulsive decisions that you know you wouldn’t otherwise. Live each second as you would at the moment. Without this second, there is no next.
Although I am just starting my junior year, having taken a gap term in the fall, I felt the rustle of unsettlement in my friends as we rapidly approached senior year. With just over a year and then some, until Class of 2022 walks down the next part of life, we are grasping onto the time we have left to make sure we choose, again, right. Even after experiencing a global pandemic that changed the course of everyone’s life, we still think we can control our fate. We wait, measure, act, apply, compare, contrast, then think again because we want to do things right. But we need to remember, not everything feels right or works out the first time. It could take multiple tries, and then we may still not get it.
So what? Life isn’t about a big “it.” Forget the beast in the jungle. Forget the ghost of success. Life is just a culmination of seconds. Now. Are you satisfied at this moment? Happy, even? Then you are doing great because the next second is likely to be great too. Continue the math. Next hour, day, month, year, decade, century... all depends on this moment.
Elizabeth Im is a junior studying Cognitive Science. Her column, (Im)possible Ways, hopes to present new perspectives in life to its readers. She reflects on ideas that are sometimes deemed impractical or even impossible and argues how they may be the very thing we need today.